I Choose Depression

When I told my mother that I am dealing with depression she said, “Well son, depression is a choice.” Then she quickly escaped any further conversation about it by making up a story that she was in a meeting and had to go. What meeting? My mom has not worked in over twenty years.

Even though I felt deeply wounded by her quick dismissal of my pain, I thought about what she said. “Depression is a choice.” Am I choosing to be depressed?

A fellow psychotherapist whom I sometimes have lunch with deals with serious depression. But he is one of the happier people I know. He often says, “I choose joy. I choose to be joyful because I have to.” Really? You have to? I find it odd that someone who is very depressed could appear so happy. Something seems very forced and inauthentic about it to me, but who am I to judge? Don’t most people do this?

Deep down, depression is a choice. It is true that I have little interest in happiness. I find positivity and happiness to be incredibly banal and superficial states to be in. If I am happy, great- I will enjoy it. But it is the pursuit of happiness and positivity that I think is responsible for so much misery.

As a psychotherapist, the one thing I hear all the time is, “I just want to be happy.” This I feel is the root of most people’s unhappiness (and empty bank accounts).

I choose not to be happy. If happiness shows up, as it sometimes does, I don’t turn it away. I enjoy it. But I choose to not strive to be happy and positive. I don’t think I should be happy. In fact, I think the desire to be happy is just as dangerous as driving a motorcycle at high speeds.

Depression is a logical emotional reflection of the world we are living in today. Just like a pool of water reflects the sky and trees that hang over it, depression is a reflection of the world the soul is living in today. The soul is lonely and in a state of terror and despair. The soul is sad about all the sensless violence all around. The soul feels under threat from the absence of creativity and authentic community in our working and private lives. The soul feels stuck by political and economic conditions outside our control. The soul feels empty because the more it tries to find fulfillment in external things, the more alone and empty it feels. The soul is quite frustrated in the Capitalistic world of today.

And then there is the simple fact of our own mortality. The fact that everything we love, everything we hold close to ourselves, everything we have earned, even ourselves, will disappear. When a person really looks closely at the image being reflecting by the pool of water- depression is what they will see.

Most chose not to look at all. Just keep looking away. Say you have a metting to get to.

My mom is right though. I do chose depression because depression is what I see reflected back at me, especially in my work as a psychotherapist. I mean how could I hear about the worst things that happen to people in life, day after day, without feeling depressed? How could I be a psychotherapist and be happy? Happy Psychotherapist is just another term for Sociopath Psychotherapist, Psycho Psychotherapist or plain old Shitty Psychotherapist. If a therapist is able to be happy while hearing about the worst things that happen to people, stop seeing them. They do not care about you, even though they may act like they do.

The best psychotherapist I ever knew, who was given all kinds of awards and wrote several books and was a prestigous mentor to many including myself, jumped off a bridge.

If I am going to provide guidance to those going through the various difficult aspects of life, I want to be one of them. I want to get real with myself and stop pursuing fake dreams of Hollywood induced happiness. How else can I really help? This is what I learned from him.

In middle-age, my life has become more about learning how to live with, learn about, accept and get better at describing the image being reflected back at me, rather than trying to change it, run from it, fix it, deny it, worry about it, complain about it and/or ignore it (common stratageies in the America of today).

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. This is my strategy. I leave my depression alone. I see it and accept that it is there. I lean into it and learn from it. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just notice that it is there and smile at it. Sometimes I notice that it goes away.

Because of depression I am pushed further inside of myself. I am forced to let go of any kind of belief in the attainment of any real Hollywood fulfillment through economic and material gain (consumerism) and instead work towards transmuting my loneliness into real solitude.

I meditate. I contemplate. I sit alone.

Loneliness is a terrible feeling of disappearing even when we have so much and are around so many. When lonely, we can never get enough and are continually in pursuit of more. We even feel separated from ourselves when alone so we turn on the TV for company. Solitude means to be at home in ourselves. A person who is in real solitude is a person who is comfortable within themselves. A person in solitude is a person who is no longer disappearing. They have arrived. They are two people in one. Friends with themself. A person who is dealing with lonliness (which is the majority of people in American society) is no one in one. They have no friend within to sit with.

The person who is striving for happiness is often no one in one. This feeling of being no one within is the fuel that keeps us searching for more. Some of the greatest empires and fortunes have been built by these kinds of people. But this striving is an endless pursuit because it is the pursuit which is creating the loneliness.

Depression pushes us down into solitude. The person with depression is given the opportunity to become more at home within themselves by being pushed further within. The person who survives and successfully manages depression is the person who has been able to move from loneliness into solitude. Those who do not survive depression or who end up having depression destroy their lives, have not been able to move through loneliness. They get stuck in continually feeling as if they are disappearing inside because they are pursuing happiness on the outside.

So yes, I do chose to be depressed. Why not? Depression helps me to relate to the world in a way that feels more logical and sane. The happiness and positivity craze that the vast majority of people are suffering from at this moment in history, only leads a person away from themselves and towards more lonliness. Just do a Google search on the amount of people taking psychiatric medications and buying self help books in this country. The pursuit of happiness and positivity creates a superficial existence that lacks substance because it is always in pursuit of something. Depression is deepening. It pushes a person further within themselves because there is the realization that the loneliness in the outside world can never bring them the happiness they were looking for.

Fuck happiness. Stop buying their books and going to their workshops. Stop ingesting their pills. By now don’t you see that it does not work? Instead, get better at being depressed.

It is only through going further within, through the deepening of one’s relationship with oneself that real solitude can be attained. And it is when we discover solitude within ourselves, that we really start to live free.

The Jaywalker

“Jaywalker!”

This is what my client shouted out her car window as she drove past me crossing the street. I was startled and almost dropped the black coffee I held in my hand and the cigarette I had in my mouth. Like a child caught doing something wrong but still trying to pretend like there is nothing wrong, I smiled and gave a friendly wave back at her as she drove away in her silver Tesla. I then returned to work.

I am the kind of person who crosses the street when and wherever I need to. I just cross. I do not like the idea of being told what to do by two painted lines on asphalt. Crossing in the crosswalk causes me to feel bad about myself. Like I am doing something that I know is not good for me. I often feel no different than a cow obediently following along.

I prefer to jaywalk and will explain why this illegal act is so important for mental health in a bit.

But first….

I didn’t think much more about it for the rest of the afternoon and got lost in trying to help my psychotherapy clients solve some of their unsolvable problems. The good thing about being a psychotherapist is that you can forget about your own problems for a while, pretend like you have none, and focus on someone else’s troubled inner world. I am often surprised when I come home from work and find several problems waiting for me. “Oh, hey,” I say. “I almost forgot about you.”

The following day, my client who caught me jaywalking did not show up for her appointment. Really? This was odd behavior since I had been working with her for over a year. She came to every appointment and would often say that her life depended on psychotherapy. She had no communication with any of her children and lived alone in a large and beautiful home. She was continually unhappy about her life and felt like psychotherapy helped her to work things out and become a better person in her mid-life. I sent her a text asking if she was still going to make it to our scheduled session but did not receive a response that day. Or the next.

I knew that my client had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by a previous therapist, but I tried not to see her in the light of this diagnosis. Diagnosis helps no one is my general belief. I know that Borderline Personality Disorder causes a person to go from loving you to disliking and being angry with you at the snap of two fingers, but I wanted to believe that our therapeutic relationship was more stable than this. We would work through anything that came up, I told myself. We seemed to get along perfectly well but it is always tough to tell when a personality disorder is present in the room. When I did not receive any response from my text after a few days, I knew that something was wrong. It was obvious to me that she was condemning me for illegally crossing the street.

I realize that many people do not like the idea of being given advice from someone who walks outside of two lines painted on asphalt. A jaywalker has a negative connotation in our much too obedient, rule driven society. Everyone is expected to walk within the lines and those who do not are harshly judged. If I am a jaywalker what other rules do I break? I must be troubled person if I can’t even cross the street within the lines. What an irresponsible professional I must be. My client was a CEO of a large corporation and I knew that she deeply respects rules and expects everyone to follow them. Still I assumed that when she yelled out her Tesla window, “Jaywalker!” she was just playing around with me. A funny coincidence passing your therapist jaywalking in mid-afternoon on a crowded street. I did not realize that her yelling at me was actually an angry condemnation. How dare I illegally cross the street. I should know better. This sort of thing.

I realize that my brain has a tendency to jump towards the worst case scenario. I once had a meditation teacher who told me, “You have the kind of brain that when you walk down the street and you notice a rope in the middle of the street you immediately assume it is a snake. It takes you a few minutes to realize that it is just a rope.” Fair enough. I have done a lot of work to correct this psychological disability but being born and raised Jewish predestines a person to certain amount of self-created psychological duress, which is impossible to correct. The best a person can do is be aware of when their disability is causing them to experience the world in a way which is not true. A person who can’t do this is often called psychotic.

I don’t want to be psychotic. I want to know what I am doing when I do it.

It is possible that my client is not thinking what I think she is thinking. It is possible that not soon after passing me she was in a serious car accident and is now dead. It is odd that she suddenly stopped coming to our sessions and will not reply to my texts but as a person who works with so many people, it is not unusual for a few to every so often be suddenly and without notice recruited out of this life.

I was warned once by another psychotherapist to never work with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. “They will make your life miserable. At first you will think they are the nicest and most interesting people. They will tell you how much you are helping them and make you feel great about yourself. Then suddenly POW!!! When you do one thing that they think is wrong you will be punished.” I have never been very good at taking other people’s advice but now that I am left feeling like I was unfairly judged for jaywalking, I see what he meant.

I’ve had to keep in mind the words of the troubled philosopher Seneca who wrote in exile, “No man is despised by another unless he is first despised by himself.” I obviously have no problem with jaywalking. I enjoy jaywalking. It is my trivial way of saying fuck you to the law-abiding world. I would never want any kind of advice from someone who does not know how to walk outside of the lines. As our society becomes increasingly entrenched within narrow minded laws and mindless conformity, walking outside the lines has become a way to exercise one’s autonomy.

The person who is not continually exercising their autonomy is doomed to struggle with mental illness, often a fundamental symptom of conformity. Therefore, I see it as my responsibility as a mental health professional to jaywalk. It is impossible to conform and have mental health. Conformity to the way of life in our current society creates immense mental health problems. What use am I to my clients if I am unable to do what is best for my own mental health?

As I lay in bed last evening I was thinking that maybe it was the act of jaywalking with a cigarette in my mouth that turned my client against me. I realize that psychotherapists are supposed to be examples of responsibility and health and seeing me cross the street in an illegal way while smoking may have destroyed the illusion all professionals are publicly supposed to create. It is possible that my client could not tolerate seeing me as my authentic self. Maybe it is my fault for being caught with my guard down while out in public. I don’t really know. All this thinking is madness. This is the problem with having relationships with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Suddenly you are left feeling like you have done something terribly wrong but you don’t know what. They are good at taking the madness that is in their brains and inserting it into yours.

Jaywalking is one of the final ways I have left to protest a society that is all about following rigid and suffocating rules. When I was young I would spend entire days in protest marches but now I do not have the time or energy to do this. I also live in an area where acts of political protest do not exist. So for now, jaywalking is the best I can do to convince myself that some degree of an activist rebel is still alive in me despite living a more professional, suburban, middle-class life. If my client doesn’t like it, to hell with her.

“You are better off without her,” my wife said to me as she sat in bed next to me and intuited that I was still trying to figure out what went wrong with my client. “You are right,” I said to my wife. We turned out the bedroom lights and I placed my arms around her and pulled her into my body. Before falling asleep I thought, I am better off without her. This is advice I am going to take. Just let it go.

The Jaywalker. Part One.

The Prolific Negative Thinker. Conversation #24.

You think you are a negative thinker?

What do you think? You would know best.

Absolutely. You absolutely are. I would say the majority of your thoughts are negative.

What percent?

Probably 97%.

That high?

Yes. Without a doubt. You are either thinking about worst case scenarios (worrying), judging yourself or judging others (especially your wife). This is what you do most of the time.

It’s not good.

Look at yourself now. Your wife just said to you, “I hope you have a lovely day babe,” before she left. How did you respond?

I said, “Do I have to? Do I have to have that expectation?”

Exactly. Would you not say that was negative?

Yes. It was also honest. I am a bit tired of all these expectations to be happy, to be filled with joy, to be peace, to have a wonderful day, to be redeemed.

I see.

Maybe I want to be irredeemable. Maybe this positive psychology expectation to be happy, to be filled with love and joy is just not a pitcher of Kool-Aid I am willing to swallow. It is such a California thing. Why do I have to be happy? What is so great about being happy?

You don’t. But all these negative thoughts are causing you to be unwell. Look at how your chest feels constricted right now. Notice how you are having a difficult time breathing? Notice that heavy weight on your shoulders and chest? That can’t be good for you.

I know. But I can’t seem to stop these negative thoughts. They just happen and take me over. I try to meditate, recite a mantra, exercise. None of it seems to work. I just have to wait it out and eventually it will pass. But it is true my mind seems to judge, worry, criticize constantly. Negative thought after negative thought.

Angry about this. Worrying about that. Constantly.

Yup. I don’t know how to stop it. My father was and still is an angry man. Grew up with him upset and yelling continually. My mother is and was a depressive worrier. I seem to be programed to be a negative thinker. It is in my blood.

Probably true. You did grow up in a very tense and hostile environment. There was a lot of negativity floating around all the time.

Yes. But back then it was just normal. Now I am aware that it is not normal. It is fucked up. So many years spent being unaware of all this negativity. Now at least because of meditation, I know when it is there and I try not to get too caught up in it. But it is a constant struggle. Often it wins. Sometimes it doesn’t and I just wait for it to go away. It sucks. It feels like some sort of illness.

It is a mental illness.

You think?

I do. Without a doubt. You have an undiagnosed mental illness.

Wow! That is a radical thing to say.

Probably full on Borderline Personality Disorder.

What?!

A brain that is as negative as your is is not a place of well being and health.

Well I don’t know what to say. I know I am a prolific negative thinker. Seems to be my destiny. I do what I can about it but the rest I need to accept. It is just the way it goes. All I can really do is just be aware of it and try not to get too identified with it.

As a mindfulness meditation teacher this is what you teach other people to do. So at a very intense level, you are being challenged to do the same thing.

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”

This is your favorite quote?

It is. It sums up my entire practice. I am learning how to just leave the negativity alone. Don’t need to fuck with it all the time. Just need to be able to let it be. IT will come and IT will go. This will be my life.

Probably true. It is a kind of chronic illness that at this point you can only learn to live with.

Yes. Besides, I do not want to be happy and positive all the time. That sounds incredibly dull. I like a certain amount of negativity. Keeps things dark and interesting.

But you have way too much negativity.

This is true. I know. Just talking about it now is helpful. I feel better- like I have let some things go. I will be spending the rest of today alone so hopefully I can just be with myself and let a lot of the negativity go.

Sounds good. What are you going to do with your time alone?

I just want to read, listen to some records, take a nap, meditate once more and maybe do some drawing. Just go easy.

Sounds about right. Just do the things you like to do today. Hopefully it will help you to calm some of your negativity down.

Ok. Well thanks for talking.

Your welcome. Enjoy your solitude.

How To Be A Famous Blogger

No one reads your blog right now. No one.

You may be being a bit hyperbolic here. But if that is what you think, ok.

Don’t you care?

Maybe a bit but not really. I write for myself. This blog is for me to figure things out within myself.

I see. But wouldn’t you like more readers?

Sure.

Admit it. You would love this blog to blow up and rescue you from having to work your day job as a therapist.

Maybe. It would be nice. But its not going to happen.

It could.

How?

Become one of those self-improvement/self-help gurus. Write about how to better yourself. Write motivational stuff.

Everyone does this. Besides, that is not what I want to do. I know it is helpful for people but I do not want to do that kind of writing. It is kind-of-silly-and-not-very-interesting. These kinds of writers have sold themselves short in a way. But I am glad that they are able to help others. I just don’t really think of it as writing.

Don’t you think you are being a bit pretentious?

Me?

You.

I just have standards. I care about the craft of writing. I don’t want to cheapen it and be a self-help, blogging guru. Not how I want to write.

How do you want to write?

Creatively. I want to write literature. Make art.

I see. You think of yourself as an artist. Lucky you. You realize most people who read blogs will not care about this. They just don’t get it. Their brains can not make sense of it. It is not sell-able. Literature is not created on blogs.

I have hope that maybe a few will get it.

But this will get you nowhere! Don’t you think you are selling yourself short? Art doesn’t pay, especially when you are doing it through a blog and not putting any effort into advertising. Common man, smarten up. Think about your financial future. Do some kind of self-help-writing-thing, you can earn a living doing this. And do your art on the side.

Thats just not what it is about for me. More power to those who do it, but not for me. History will forget them. I want to write stuff that will not be forgotten. That will be appreciated a hundred years from now.

You really think any one will care about what you write on this blog a hundred years from now? Common man. People will be reading the stuff that is popular. Not this.

Maybe. I think the work that I am doing may have some lasting value. I am documenting the inner life of one man. That has got to be worth something.

I see. Well good luck with that. You certainly won’t get many readers doing this.

That is ok. Like I said, my primary reason for doing this blog is to work things out within myself.

A blog as a kind of self-therapy?

Yes, that is a good way of looking at it. This is therapy with myself. If no one else reads it, that is ok. I still get something out of it.

But you have no one viewing your site. No one following you. Your blog is a ghost on the internet. Is it really worth it? If you just wrote some motivational-self-help-stuff you will have many more readers.

Yes, this true. I would have more readers. But many writers and artists were unknown in their lifetime. It is the way it goes. It is ok. I almost think that the less people who read what I write, the better off I am.

Bullshit! You know that is bullshit.

Look I don’t like it when you talk to me like that. Its not very nice.

I am just saying that I think you are afraid of being successful. This approach that you take towards blogging is just a result of fear.

Not really. I just want to do it because I enjoy it. Because it means something to me. As long as I feel like I have integrity with this art form, it feels good doing it. If no one reads it- so be it.

I still think you should start a motivational, self-help blog.

I know you do. Thanks for your advice but I am just not interested in that. It is dull and boring. Uninteresting. I am ok with letting others figure their lives out for themselves. I don’t need to get in on the Gold Rush that seems to be going on with self-help blogging. It would be selling myself short.

So you are doing all of this for art?

Yes. This is art.

Art?

Art.

And you are willing to make no money and have no readers?

If need be, sure.

Ok man. Whatever floats your boat. But I think you are full of shit. Every time you check your stats and you see that no one is reading or following you, you get down. You feel like quitting. I know it bothers you.

I think we are done for now.

You sure? Did I hit a nerve?

Maybe. But I think we are done.

You are nuts.

We are done.